Lititz, Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery and Wilbur Chocolate Factory

8/18/14 Monday in Lebanon,PA (Hershey-TT)

Late start to the morning. The DVR is back to normal. Not sure all the “Breaking Bad” shows were recorded, but there is more to life. Outside for my walk I got involved saying goodby to Billy/Jim while John got involved with “Love Boat”. So we delayed our plans to visit Lititz until after lunch. I worked on the blog as John watched more old TV shows.

A friend (Lily) had recommended this city. It’s a Moravian story, you could say. This religious group was persecuted in Europe so escaped to the New World. Lititz is the German spelling for Lidice, where European reformers had taken refuge in the 15th century.

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Their schoolhouse became Linden Hall, the oldest continuously operating residence school for girls in the US.

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For 100 years Moravian church members were the only people permitted to live in the town. They did give in and let others come in 1855.

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I think Lititz is most famous for the “Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery”. It’s the first commercial pretzel bakery in the New World, started in 1861. It’s still standing and they make soft pretzels there now. Julius also was the first to invent the hard pretzel – these were considered mistakes among pretzel bakers of the time. He thought it would be a good thing to make them thinner and purposely cook them longer. His boss scoffed at the idea. So Julius started his own Pretzel Bakery, specializing in hard pretzels. Now people of the time weren’t familiar with these but Julius had a great idea. This was also the beginning of the Civil War so he gave his hard pretzels (so much tastier than hard tack) which could last for weeks whereas the soft pretzels weren’t practical in the military realm. They were a huge hit and that’s how they became popular for the general populace – the soldiers spread the news.

We learned all this on our tour (for an amazing $3.50/adult), along with making our own pretzels (we didn’t bake them) and seeing the original ovens Julius and his family used. In fact it’s all still run by family, although most of the pretzels are made in Reading, PA, I think (we forgot the name) by Tom Sturgis. They’re only distributed in the 150 mile radius of that town. Naturally we bought a soft pretzel (never had one before). I’d say it’s tastier than a bagel! We also got free small bags of pretzels and bought another big one to share with our friends.

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My pretzel as they were made in the early days. John’s is the one with the Certificate.

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After twisting the dough, they let it proof (raise), then put them into a caustic solution (now of baking soda and water) that will give the shiny brown outside when baked. They are next placed on the cloth covered box to drain moisture away. Next they put them into the brick oven to bake, using that long narrow board, then pull them out with a short wide paddle. If they were to be hard pretzels they’d put them in that screened box, to be placed in a stack that was lifted to the second floor where they would “cook” more in the heat of that floor. It would take 4 hours to 2 days depending on the moisture in the air.

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In the 1930’s they invented a machine to to the dough twisting, using that until the 1960’s when they found that molds through which they press the dough were even more efficient.

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Our friend also mentioned that the Wilbur Chocolate Factory was in Lititz. I can’t resist chocolate. We heard they give more samples than Hershey. It’s true. They have some jars of “Wilbur Buds” (like kisses) that you can just help yourself to. Thus people like myself manage to eat quite a number of them! Anyway, there were directions to Wilbur Chocolate at the Pretzel place. Just an easy walk down that neat city. We couldn’t resist buying a pound of “Wilbur Buds.”  It think they are richer than Hershey “Kisses.”  They sure have a lot more personality.

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Below are “Wilbur Buds.”

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Our path to/from Lititz included a path/road through a tall forest. Lovely.

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We got home in plenty of time to make supper and John noted he’d had his walk for the day, so we ended our day with TV.

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About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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5 Responses to Lititz, Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery and Wilbur Chocolate Factory

  1. mlshatto says:

    I’ve lived in Lititz since 1973 and have never until today heard Wilbur Buds called Wilbur Rosebuds. I’m curious as to where you heard that. I’ll have to ask one of my friends who works for Wilbur if that is the original name. I know that the Wilbur Bud predates the Hershey Kiss.

    I’m glad you enjoyed Lititz. Please come back again when you can stop at the Museums. The Lititz Historical Foundation is open 10 – 4 Monday through Saturday through the summer and fall. The Archives Museum at the church is open for walk-ins 11 to 2 on Fridays and Saturdays through the end of September. There’s lots to see!

    • tjelser says:

      Thank you so much for speaking up about the Wilbur Rosebuds! That was purely my mind getting into the fray of words. Funny how one can think something and believe it from then on. I’ll update my blog entry to reflect the correct name: Wilbur Buds! Thanks too for all your extra comments. When we returned we heard the Museum was great. Hope we get to Lititz again before we leave.

  2. I loved Lititz and the Linden Hall School the year I was there. Thank you for sharing this.

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